'If you restrict women with outdated practices you will lose them'
A senior partner at a Norwich law practice believes flexible working will be key to retaining the best female talent in the legal profession.
Jane Anderson, a solicitor with nearly 30 years’ experience, was made a partner at Cozens-Hardy before having children.
When she returned to work part-time, she returned as the only partner who was also a mother.
Now, the company tips the gender balance in favour of women, with eight female partners out of 13 and a majority of female solicitors.
Mrs Anderson, who was made a senior partner four years ago, said that with more women than men now graduating as solicitors it is important to ensure the right support is available for them to stay in work.
“As a firm we have several female partners and other staff who have children. We have a co-operative partnership which has enabled us to carry on in business, whereas if our partners had adopted a more restrictive approach it would mean more women were lost from the profession,” she said.
“The general ethos at this firm is very supportive of women in business, not just the lawyers but the support staff as well.
“Behind the scenes, it is genuinely hard work if you have to balance everything. To make it work in a very demanding job we have to have the right support in place.
“With so many women entering the profession now, if you restrict them with outdated practises you are going to lose them. There needs to be flexibility.”
While women still take primary responsibility for running their households, the task of returning to work after having children – especially for those in demanding roles – could cause some things to “give”, Mrs Anderson said.
“I think it would be much easier to put women off returning to work after having children if you don’t have appropriate arrangements in place. I was very focused on coming back – I think you have to be.”
She added: “Things have changed over the past 30 years, but the legal profession has been one of the slower areas to change. Cozens-Hardy is perhaps viewed as a traditional firm, but we have shown that it is possible for us to move with the times and to provide the right opportunities for women to succeed in the workplace.”